From the top · 29 September 2017

A motivational pep talk from The Apprentice winner Tim Campbell

Tim Campbell
Tim Campbell founded Bright Ideas Trust in 2007 to create opportunities in business for young people

Business Advice sat down with Tim Campbell, former partner of Alan Sugar and accomplished entrepreneur in his own right, to find out the secrets to staying motivated as a small business owner and why it’s time to re-evaluate the notion of entrepreneurship.

Since founding Bright Ideas Trust in 2007, Tim Campbell has dedicated much of the last ten years ensuring Britain’s next wave of business leaders represents the diversity of society. Through events, workshops and support networks, the organisation helps young people underserved by the mainstream understand how business works, offering a platform to achieve their ambitions.

In his own words, it’s about democratising the access to information for those who might not have a family member in the City of London, or a personal network of business owners.

Business Advice wanted to know how Campbell manages to unlock belief in people whose entrepreneurial journey hasn’t been mapped out from the start. He immediately urged us to keep our role models realistic – look more closely to home than at Richard Branson and his Caribbean island.

“We need more aspirational role models that people can look at and say, ‘if they did it, maybe I can too’,” Campbell explained.

“I’m more likely to connect with people who have created a business that’s been on the high street for the last five years, or who started an online company from their back garden and have hired a couple of employees. That’s a bridge you can travel across, connect with and learn from.”

Life after The Apprentice for Tim Campbell

  • Winner of The Apprentice Season 1 (2005)
  • Director of Amstrad health and beauty division (2005 – 2007)
  • Founded Bright Ideas Trust (2007)
  • Enterprise Ambassador for Mayor of London (2010 – 2015)

Read more: The Apprentice winner Ricky Martin on life after TV and Alan Sugar’s mentorship

Five years is often a long time in business, especially in the uncertain times many founders currently find themselves. Finding the motivation to continue after a setback can be difficult.

“Something that’s critical for keeping entrepreneurs motivated is getting them in tune with why they started a business in the first place,” Campbell said.

“You have to be a bit mad [to be a business owner]. On one hand, you have to ensure cash is coming in and make sure clients are happy with your product or service. But, you also have to be ambitious enough to make sure you are looking for the big things coming around tomorrow.

“That’s hard for people to do, because people usually fall into one of those two camps – they are either short-termist or long-termist. It’s hard to get people who can do both. Unfortunately, as a business owner that’s what you have to do. If you realise you don’t have both skills, you might need a business partner or someone else to assist you.”

A partner Campbell was keen to champion the accessibility of is the British Library, the “essential” resources provided by which he urged entrepreneurs to seek out. “There’s a wealth of information here about other businesses that have been successful. You can really understand what has made business owners into the successes they are.”

Tim Campbell delivered his "Staying Alive" talk at the British Library Start-up Day
Tim Campbell delivered his “Staying Alive” talk at the British Library Start-up Day

In addition, Campbell encouraged ambitious new business owners to make the most of events like the British Library’s Start-up Day and connect with as many like-minded individuals as possible.

“It helps to know you aren’t the only one with a particular problem,” he added. “Networking events like this are really good for connecting with people who can give you an insight into something you may not have thought about.”

Changing perceptions

Campbell has previous in encouraging enterprise from unlikely sources. It’s part of his rejection of the typical image of the entrepreneur – the bath time “eureka!” moment is a particular gripe. “Most business owners are those who have worked for another employer, seen something that hasn’t worked particularly well, and said: ‘I think I could do that better’, and spun out and done it.”

He also pointed to the rise of redundancies, leaving people with lump sums of money to invest in something they might have dreamed about for years. “Business is much broader than the way its portrayed in the media,” he added.

Through Bright Ideas Trust, Campbell is accustomed to meeting the entrepreneurs of tomorrow who are armed with a belief that their business will change the world. After helping launch 700 new companies through his charity, is he ever surprised anymore?

“I’m constantly amazed by what people come up with,” he said. “From the 35-40-year olds who have had a burning desire for years, to the wet-behind-the-ears teenagers.”

Campbell is also passionate about the speed at which business is evolving. He referenced Channel 4’s The Secret Millionaire as a popular strand to the greater conscience of business today, as it becomes more incumbent on its leaders to “address the social ills of our communities”.

“I think more people are becoming aware of that responsibility and trying to use their business success to do good,” he added.

As well as inspiring individuals and the new social obligations of businesses, technology has also kept Campbell on his toes.

“We’re at a very interesting time,” Campbell explained. “There are huge transitions in the way businesses function. Blockchain technology, for example, is going to change the way companies operate, but most people don’t realise it.

“Access to information is also more readily available than ever, and the barrier of entry to business has reduced – you can create something from your bedroom now. Those factors – with the energy and fearlessness of youth – mean there is a wave of entrepreneurship about to be unleashed on our communities.”

For Campbell, unlocking this potential will be vital in addressing some of the world’s greatest challenges. When harnessed properly, he said, business can provide solutions to environmental threats, rising populations and even geopolitical clashes.

“We are such complicated creatures with such imaginations and energy. What it’s going to take is people brave enough to say ‘I’m not going to take that. I’m going to try and do something different’.”

Are you part of the majority of Brits who thinks they’d be a success on The Apprentice?

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Simon Caldwell is a reporter for Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and communications from the University of Liverpool, and previously worked as a content editor in the ecommerce industry.

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